Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 486

Issue # 486                                          Week ending Saturday 12 January 2019

When it Rains, Should We All Consider Putting on Extremely Tight Wet-look Black Leather? By Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

If there’s one thing that the TV fest of the last three weeks has shown, it is that there are too few Scots on the box. Think of the talent shows, just as an example. So many performers on BGT and X Factor in the last year were Irish or Welsh. The Scots were really few and far between. Now The Voice is back on and it’s just getting worse. Every second contestant on that show seems to be a near-neighbour in the Valleys of judge Tom Jones. Well, what a surprise. They seriously need Scots talent and judges on that show.

A Welsh wannabe was wailing last week that she lived in deepest, darkest Taffyland and lived an hour away from the nearest Burger King. Listen, merch, some of the most talented singers here in the Hebrides are at least four hours from a quarter pounder. If the weather is bad, like on Monday, they are a day-and-a-half from the nearest Flame-Grilled Whopper. No, I wasn’t referring to her as merchandise, because merch is Welsh for girl. On a weekend in South Wales once, I was assured the only Welsh words I needed were: “Ydych chi’n dawnsio, merch?” That means - are you dancing, girl? Well, that’s what they told me it meant.

A fantastic year so far for songbird Olivia Newton-John. She’s alive and kicking. That’s a bit of a bonus after reports she was close to the end, if not already passed over. The fact is that she has not been well for a while, poor thing, but, like Mark Twain, reports of the demise of Sandy from Grease had been exaggerated. Having reached three score years and 10, she does still look remarkable but then again that may be because I cannot not think of her dressed from head to toe in tight, shiny black leather. I’m sure you’re the same. No? Oops, forget I mentioned that.

Olivia was stunning in Grease. When she played innocent schoolgirl Sandra Dumbrowski, she was 29. That tight leather must have been holding a bit in. Seven or eight years earlier she had lulled us into a false sense of security with Banks of the Ohio. Those lovely words are so beautiful - “And only say that you’ll be mine, and in no others arms entwine. Down beside where the waters flow, down by the banks of the Ohio.” Just makes you feel so squishy inside as you think of the river rushing by on a summer’s evening.

At the third verse it suddenly becomes a very grim song that could have been written by a hard-faced detective by the Clyde. There’s been a murrderr. “I held a knife against his breast, as into my arms he pressed. He cried: ‘My love, don’t you murder me. I'm not prepared for eternity’.” Oh heck. That’s destroyed the warm, fuzzy feeling I get every time I think about Sandy, I mean Olivia. Sorry, Mrs X. I did not mean to get carried away. You understand, Olivia - I mean Sandie.

That’s the first time I have referred to Mrs X by her own name, in print anyway. I shall try not to make a habit of it to try and keep up the mystery. You’d be surprised how many people ask whether Mrs X is my wife or a figment of my imagination? She is my missus and she is in my imagination - especially when she’s squeezed into tight black leather, like yon other Sandy. Practical gear in wet Hebridean weather. Sadly, in my imagination that is exactly where that vision is going to stay, she has told me firmly. Mrs X insists she doesn’t wish to be an international sex symbol and, anyway, why would she wear tight leather when she has perfect serviceable wellington boots? Sigh.

The festive radio and TV has been featuring that most annoying wee tune that has ever wriggled into my earhole. Yes, Baby Shark. All the tiny kids are doing it and, of course, some not so young youngsters. It is seriously difficult to get it out of your head. The kids do that new dance to it - the Floss. All ages from three to 10 do the Floss. It is so magnetic to watch especially if it is being done right. Anyone over 10 will find it hard to move that fast. If you are too old, you will just look as if you are shoogling around because you can’t dance. Actually, the Floss is not really new. I bet you had no idea that it was first popular with crofters in the halls in Shawbost and Carloway in the 1970s. A plucky lad would go up to a girl and face her straight on. Slowly extending extending both hands out, he would then curl them round to his own waist as if he was carrying something under each arm. He then shuffled around in his dungarees, almost rhythmically, to impress the lady. That was the Floss. Oh no, I am wrong. It wasn’t the Floss. That was the Fleece.

Police Warn of Gales Affecting Travel in Scotland

Police have warned of the potential for dangerous driving conditions across large parts of Scotland during gale force winds.  The Met Office issued a yellow "be aware" warning for high winds affecting north, west and north east Scotland.  The high winds have disrupted Caledonian MacBrayne ferry services on the west coast. The Dounreay nuclear site in Caithness has been closed to most staff.  In Sutherland, a static caravan was blown across the carriageway of the A9 while being transported near the Dornoch Bridge. The bridge was closed for a time, but later reopened to non-high sided vehicles.  Four Highland Council primary schools - Farr, Melvich and Tongue in Sutherland and Pennyland in Thurso, Caithness - shut early because of the bad weather.  Firefighters were called to a shop in Thurso after the building's roof was blown off.  Video was also posted on social media of a "sand storm" which whipped up on the Caithness town's beach. Cars could been seen slowly driving through the storm as it swirled down roads and streets.  Electricity company Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks said thousands of its customers in north east Scotland had been affected by power cuts, including supplies to more than 2,100 properties in Aberdeen and 1,200 in Pittmedden and Udny in Aberdeenshire.  Power cuts have also affected Fyvie, Collieston and Hatton and Fochabers and Garmouth.  Dornoch Bridge was closed on Monday evening, while the Forth Road Bridge was closed to high-sided vehicles and the Tay Road Bridge was closed to double-decker buses.  ScotRail said train services between Inverness and Wick, and Montrose and Aberdeen had to be cancelled or run at a reduced speed because of the high winds. The weather has also caused disruption to a number of ferry services.  Police Scotland urged drivers travelling in north and the north-east Scotland to take extra care, with winds gusting to 75mph forecast for some areas.  Ch Insp Stewart Mackie said the Highlands, Western Isles, Northern Isles. Angus, Dundee, Fife, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray were expected to experience the worst of the weather. He said: "Police Scotland is advising all drivers to travel with extra caution and ensure you and your vehicle are adequately prepared for the conditions making sure you have sufficient fuel and supplies such as warm clothing, food and water in the event you are delayed for several hours.  Charge your mobile phone and plan your route as well as alternative routes." Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) teams have reported encountering high winds in Lochaber, the Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Torridon and on Creag Meagaidh.  In Torridon, the SAIS forecaster said strong winds had blown water back uphill at the Beinn a' Mhuinidh waterfall.

Top Composer Calls for Music Tuition to Be Given Protected Status in Scotland’s Schools
He is the musical maestro who has worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood – but credits his entire career as a film composer to his education in Lanarkshire.  Now Patrick Doyle has called for music tuition to be given protected status in Scotland’s schools to ensure future generations have the chance to follow in his footsteps.  Speaking ahead of a 65th birthday celebration concert at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival, he has spoken out against recent cuts in music tuition enforced by local authorities across the country.  Doyle has insisted that playing in his school brass band and a Lanarkshire youth orchestra helped pave the way to write soundtracks for films like Sense and Sensibility, Gosford Park, Brave, Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire and Thor.  And he warned the growing number of councils considering cutting specialist classes and imposing fees on pupils not to “under-estimate the power of music tuition”.  Brought up in Uddingston, in south Lanarkshire, Doyle is best-known for his 30-year partnership with Kenneth Branagh on his films.  However, he has also worked with the likes of Brian De Palma, Robert Altman, Al Pacino, Richard E Grant, Robbie Coltrane and Judi Dench, and has provided the score for more than 60 movies. But Doyle has singled out Eddie Morrison and Inga Marshall, his teachers at Our Lady’s High and Dalziel High, both in Motherwell, where he attended specialist classes in his later school years, as his key influences.  Doyle was one of 13 children and only started learning music when he began piano lessons at the age of 12, under the tutelage of piano teacher Edith Ferguson, a stalwart in music circles in Lanarkshire for more than half a century. Doyle went on to play tuba at high school and on leaving won a place at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow to study piano, singing and brass.  He spent a year teaching music himself at Hillhead High, before entering the theatre world, working at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow and acting in plays like The Slab Boys. He first met Branagh after moving to London and joining his theatre company Renaissance, going on to win an Ivor Novello Award for his work on their first film collaboration, Henry V.  Doyle said: “I can only urge the education authorities not to under-estimate the power of music tuition. Not only does it add something unique to your general education, it helps to build your confidence. Playing and competing with the Lanarkshire Youth Orchestra and the Our Lady’s High brass band gave the foundation for everything that I have achieved throughout my life. Specialist music teaching was crucial for me. I couldn’t wait for it to come around every week. It was a huge thing in my life.It was the musical education I had in Lanarkshire that set me on my road.  I didn’t play a thing until I was 12 and asked to go to piano lessons. My teacher Edith Ferguson transformed my life. She instilled such confidence in you. Nothing was impossible.”  Doyle has created two brand new pieces of music for the celebration concert at Celtic Connections on 24 January. However, he hinted that the show would include a surprise tribute to his upbringing at home.  He added: “I’m from an incredibly musical family full of fabulous singers. We had big parties in the house about four or five times a year where everyone was expected to sing. My father was a great archivist and recorded the whole family on a Grundig tape recorder.”

Additional £50m Scottish Government Funding for Tay Cities Region
The Scottish government has confirmed a further £50m investment for the Tay Cities Region.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said £40m will be invested in the Cross Tay Link Road, which will link the A9 over the River Tay.  The remaining £10m will fund an "industrial investment programme" supporting manufacturing businesses.  The Scottish and UK governments previously announced they would each invest £150m in the Tay Cities Deal.  Ms Sturgeon announced the separate additional Scottish government funding during a visit to Perth.  She said: "Our further £50m investment in the Tay cities region will support transport infrastructure and manufacturing projects, benefiting people and businesses and ensuring the area continues to grow and thrive.  As well as opening up land for new housing and employment sites, the Cross Tay Link Road will reduce traffic congestion in and around Perth and improve the air quality in the city centre and Bridgend."  The Cross Tay Link Road would cross the River Tay from west of the A9 and link with the A93 and A94 north of Scone.  The scheme already has two thirds of its £113m funding in place.  Perth and Kinross Council leader Murray Lyle said the announcement was "hugely welcome".  He said: "This project supports the exciting expansion of Perth and Kinross, opening up new housing, industrial development and job creation in the beating heart of Scotland.  As well as being a multi-million pound infrastructure project in itself, the road will support the growing population in the area to live life well and expand opportunities for inward investment and better connectivity across Scotland."

Skye Website Translated Into Mandarin for Chinese Visitor Boom

A website about Skye has been translated into Mandarin in a bid to encourage people from China to visit the island.  The site features the animated Donald from Skye character, who gives recommendations of what to see and do in the area.  It has now been translated into Mandarin to help the growing number of Chinese people visiting Skye and to encourage further visitors to the island.  Donald from Skye said: “I love telling people from all over the world about the beautiful Isle of Skye, so to be able to tell people in China what Skye has to offer is brilliant.  My aim is to make Scotland accessible to everyone, wherever they’re from, and now anyone who visits www.donaldfromskye.com can see all the information on Skye in English or Mandarin.  I hope this is the start of many translations of the website, allowing potential visitors to see the numerous sights and attractions they could see on Skye. Whether they need help booking accommodation, finding activities to do, details on where to park or where to eat, I’m the man to ask.  I can’t wait to welcome new friends from China and all over the world to Scotland and to Skye.”  To celebrate his refreshed website, Donald from Skye took to social media to show his adventures around China as he searched for Shijin Cheng – the translator of the Donald from Skye website. A series of photographs posted on Instagram and Twitter show Donald on his search, accompanied by Fergie the Tractor, which culminates in him finding the translator with a picture of him on the Great Wall of China saying: “I found Shijin Cheng.”  The website also features business listings and a live chat function for visitors looking for information on the island, as well as a film about Donald and Fergie.  Tourists have recently been urged to explore other areas of Skye to relieve pressure on the location’s top visitor hotspots, which have become swamped with vehicles.  The plea followed pictures being circulated of cars parked for miles around the Old Man of Storr because the car park for the rocky pinnacle was overwhelmed.

Aberdeen’s Deltatek Global Secures Key Israeli Deal

Aberdeen-based well construction specialist DeltaTek Global has secured a key international contract to supply its cementing technology for a project in Israel.  The firm launched its proprietary SeaCure cementing technology in 2015. It is said to provide a range of cost and time saving benefits to drilling and field development operations.  DeltaTek chief executive Tristam Horn said: “We are delighted to have been awarded our first large scale international contract, supporting Energean Oil and Gas in Israel on a high profile, deepwater, exploration and development campaign, opening up the deployment envelope for our game changing well construction technology.  “2018 was an incredible year for DeltaTek and we plan to continue building on those successes as we move into 2019.”  He added: “SeaCure has been brought to market quickly, thanks to the support of our industry partners and the technology’s proven rig time saving ability.”

Sean Michael Wilson Gives 400BC Tao Te Ching A Modern Twist

A famous ancient Chinese text which offers guidance towards living a better life has been reborn as a Japanese manga-style novel. Sandra Dick finds how a Scottish writer has given the 400BC Tao Te Ching a very modern twist.  They are wise words that for 2400 years have inspired countless generations towards a peaceful path of mindfulness and understanding. Rooted in ancient China, the 81 verses of Tao Te Ching offer sage advice on how to live a life of integrity and goodness, and encourage readers to take time to appreciate simple pleasures and exercise restraint rather than careering through life at full speed.  Written around 400BC, the often puzzling and thought-provoking texts were first translated into English by Scottish Protestant missionary John Chambers, in 1868 and then revised by another Scot, James Legge, whose 1891 interpretation was among the most popular of versions.  Now the famous passages – which provide the religious and philosophical foundations for Taoism and Buddhism - have been revisited by yet another Scot, only this time they take the form of a Japanese ‘manga’ style illustrated book.  Edinburgh-born writer Sean Michael Wilson, 48, who is based in Japan, worked alongside a Hong Kong illustrator to create a new interpretation of the ancient book which places its centuries-old words of wisdom into contemporary ‘comic-style’ settings.  In one, a thoughtful reflection on self-acceptance is depicted against the backdrop of a busy nightclub, while another which contemplates mankind’s place in the universe and the creation of life is illustrated with scenes of stargazing telescopes and atomic symbols.

Wilson, who left Scotland 14 years ago to achieve a childhood ambition to write graphic books in the home of manga, said that despite the cultural differences and enormous time lapse he had found curious parallels with the famous ancient text and the modern world. “I read the English version and thought of what elements I could take from it that apply to now,” he said. “Funnily enough, there is a lot of modern stuff in it. The Tao seems to be connected to environmentalism and the struggle between left and right wing. Of course, the struggle between left and ring wing and for the environment are big now, so it wasn’t difficult to put it into a modern context.”  The Tao Te Ching – which roughly translates as ‘the way of integrity’ or ‘the book of the way’ – is typically attributed to philosopher Laozi, or Lao Tzu, meaning Old Master.  Written in ancient classic Chinese, the text has puzzled and challenged scores of translators down the years, leading to differences of interpretation and understanding of what it might mean.  However, it is widely accepted as the original “self help” book, offering gentle guidance towards how to live a better life, in peace and in harmony with nature.  Wilson, 48, studied sociology and psychology at Glasgow Caledonia University and Edinburgh University and was working in television documentaries in 2004 when he quit Britain to follow his ambition to write graphic comic books in Japan.  He is among a small handful of international writers and illustrators specialising in manga in its cultural home of Japan, and recently became the first British recipient of an International Manga Award from the Japanese government.  He is also the only British comic book writer to have four books published by Japanese publisher Kodansha - one of the biggest publishers in the world – and has collected a string of awards for his comic books, which avoid Marvel comic hero-style stories and instead focus on gritty social issues or re-telling traditional stories in graphic format.  His work has included a fictional trilogy based in Edinburgh, The Story of Lee, and the adaptation of classics into graphic form including Wuthering Heights, Sweeney Todd and A Christmas Carol. One recent publication, “Portraits of Violence”, delved into the sociology of terrorism and state-sponsored violence and has been translated into Korean, Turkish, Spanish and German.  His next book will explore the history of the British trade union movement in graphic novel format. Funded in part by the General Federation of Trade Unions, it is said to have been inspired by the Labour Party slogan “The many, not the few”. He is also working on a graphic novel that will be produced in Japanese and English to coincide with the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

On this Day 1451: the University of Glasgow is Founded

It is one of Scotland’s oldest institutions - and the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking world.  Glasgow University was set up on this day in 1451, when a papal bull was granted by Pope Nicholas V, following a suggestion of King James II, to allow a university to be added to the city’s cathedral.  Small numbers of students joined the university in its early years.  It wasn’t until 1700 that the student population reached around 400, a significant number given Glasgow was still a small provincial town at the time.  Students started university as boys - women were not offered a university education in Scotland until 1892- with learners starting as young as 10. The majority of students were sons of ministers, burgesses and farmers; these were accompanied by a smaller number of sons of the nobility and gentry, and a number of bursars whose parents could not otherwise afford the expense of higher education,” a history of the university said.  The university first started in the in the chapterhouse of Glasgow Cathedral before moving to nearby Rottenrow, in a building known as the “Auld Pedagogy”.  In 1563, Mary Queen of Scots gave the university land and income previously enjoyed by the city friars. She founded bursaries for “five pouir children” and granted it the manse and kirkroom of Blackfriars as well as 13 acres of land and 10 bolls of meal.  By the 17th Century, the university was centred on two courtyards surrounded by walled gardens.  Attendance at the University brought an expectation of certain standards of behaviour. Undergraduate arts students, the majority of the student population, were required to wear gowns and were known as the togati, from the Latin for gown. From 1695, it was further ruled that the gowns had to be scarlet.  Students were also expected to carry a Bible and speak to their fellow students in Latin.  By the mid-17th Century, the College permitted the playing of lawful games, “such as gouffe, archerie and the like”. Cards and dice were, however, forbidden. According to a history of the university, there were occasional official celebrations, with the College windows illuminated with candles and coal bonfires in the High Street and quadrangles, such as those to commemorate such events as King James VI’s delivery from the Gunpowder Plot on 5 November 1605 and on coronations.  In 1870, parts of the Old College Campus, including the Lion and the Unicorn Staircase, were transferred to the university’s imposing new home at Gilmorehill in the city’s West End overlooking Kelvingrove Park .  The new campus was designed by George Gilbert Scott, the mastermind behind the hotel at London’s St Pancras station.  By the time the university opened in the West End in 1870, around 1,300 students were attending classes there.  Today, around 26,600 students are enrolled at Glasgow University.

Scottish Women’s Magazine the People’s Friend Marks 150 Years

It is the longest-running weekly magazine in the world and was first published ten years before Thomas Edison patented the electric lightbulb.  Now the People’s Friend is to mark its impressive 150th anniversary with a year-long series of events and celebrations.  First published in Dundee on 13 January, 1869, a copy of the magazine is still sold every 3.44 seconds - almost nine million copies a year.  Pitched as a magazine to “entertain and instruct” its readers, the People’s Friend was originally designed to be enjoyed by the whole family, read out around the fireplace. It subsequently morphed into a female-focused publication as men went off to fight in the First World War and now includes around 600 short stories every year.  Now with a total readership of 400,000, it is also exported each week to 20,000 readers as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. Angela Gilchrist, editor-in-chief of The People’s Friend since 2007, said the magazine still stands by its founding principles to ensure it contains nothing that could “corrupt the morals either of old or young”.  She said: “We’re proud to have maintained the founding values of the magazine. They are embedded into the ethos of the magazine – this is what The Friend is about and what it stands for.  The famous founding statement which was in the first issue talks about ‘Nothing in the columns intended to corrupt the morals of young or old’ and that is very much the principle of the magazine. There will be nothing to upset or offend. The Friend is all about entertainment so people feel better for reading it, not saddened, upset or frightened in any way.”  The magazine was officially added to the Guinness Book of World Records in 2008 when it marked its 140th anniversary. This year (2019) marks 150 years of continuous publishing. The 150th anniversary issue on 12 January 2019 will be issue number 7,759.  Ms Gilchrist said that some readers had read ‘The Friend’ every day for 60 years. She said: “Reaching this milestone is amazing and is proof of the relationship we have with our readers. No other magazine can come close to this. And that more than anything is what has made it flourish for 150 years. Readers tell me how much they look forward to the magazine coming though their door every week. They say it’s like welcoming a friend in to their home. In its 150-year history, The People’s Friend has survived massive social upheaval, world wars, strikes and natural disasters, and through it all, it’s continued, dispensing entertainment, comfort and good cheer, acting as a true friend to its readers in good times and in bad.”  The achievement of 150 years of continous publication will see a series of celebratory events held around Scotland and elsewhere in the UK. The series of events include a day of talks about the magazine’s place in publishing history at Glasgow’s Mitchell Library in April, an exhibition of original cover art at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh a month later and a readers’ weekend at Alvaston Hall, Crewe, where readers can meet the team behind the magazine, hear about the history of the publication and take part in “Friend” activities. Meanwhile, later in the year, a further series of talks will take place at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. There are also plans for short story writing workshops during the anniversary year.  The magazine was originally sold for just one penny - and the cover price was not increased until 1918 to 1½d.

Serco Loses Asylum Accommodation Contract for Scotland

A housing provider that became embroiled in an asylum seeker eviction row in Glasgow has lost its asylum accommodation contract for Scotland. From September, Serco, which was contracted by the Home Office, will no longer provide the housing.  The company was criticised last summer after it announced a rolling lock-change eviction process for those not given refugee status in Glasgow.  The contract has now been awarded to the Mears Group. Serco had planned to evict about 300 people who were refused asylum. This led to a hunger strike by two asylum seekers and protests in Glasgow.  In August, Serco announced a pause on the plans in the face of legal challenges against the evictions at the Court of Session and Glasgow Sheriff Court.  The Scottish Refugee Council welcomed the news.  Policy officer Graham O'Neill said: "It is time for a new approach and in Glasgow we welcome this new chapter in supporting people seeking refugee protection.  Providing housing to people in need is an essential public service and the rights, needs and dignity of people seeking refugee protection must be at the heart of the work of the Mears Group as they take over from Serco." He added: "We want to see the new housing provider working collaboratively with Glasgow City Council, sharing decision-making with the council and working transparently with local services and communities.  With these assurances in place, we look forward to working alongside the Mears Group to make sure that anyone seeking refugee protection in Scotland is able to begin rebuilding their lives in safe, secure and appropriate accommodation." Mears Group said its focus was on housing management, repairs and domiciliary care.  Julia Rogers, managing director of Serco's immigration business, said: "We are obviously disappointed not to have won the competition in Scotland.  Despite what some commentators have said, I know that our team in Glasgow has delivered a service that has seen the asylum seekers in our care treated with dignity and respect and provided with accommodation that not only meets all the required standards, but is some of the most heavily inspected in the country.  Our employees who are residents and constituents of Glasgow, have always been totally professional in circumstances that were at times very challenging and I am proud of them all.  Our job now is to complete the contract to the highest standard over the next nine months and hand over to the new provider in September."

Loganair Boost to Western Isles Air Services
The air schedule for the Western Isles is being enhanced this summer as Loganair increases capacity on the Benbecula and Manchester routes as well as commencing operations using its newly acquired Embraer 145 jet.  Passengers on Monday’s 4.30pm Stornoway to Glasgow service were the first from the Western Isles to board the 49-seat jet aircraft.  Loganair will use its Embraer 145 on the afternoon and evening rotations until January 28, when it will be utilised across the schedule.  The airline is also increasing summer capacity to and from Benbecula by 50% each Friday between May 24 and September 13, while also including the Embraer 145 on Saturdays and Sundays.  Customers travelling between Manchester and Stornoway will also benefit from an extended season, with tickets on sale for travel between June 21 and September 1 on a twice per week service (Fridays and Sundays) using the Embraer 135 aircraft – ideal for weekend breaks.  Manchester is an extremely popular choice for holiday makers from the islands, travelling to onward global destinations using Loganair’s network of codeshare and interline partners which operate from the airport, including Thomas Cook, Emirates, Qatar, KLM, Air France and Turkish Airline.  Kay Ryan, Commercial Director at Loganair said: “Summer is always the busiest period for travel and this year will be no different. With an influx of tourists using air services alongside many residents travelling to the mainland and beyond, we’re ensuring our schedule sufficiently meets these requirements.  Manchester is a popular route, offering connectivity to a large global network of onward destinations through our codeshare and interline partners on a single ticket – which makes it a convenient choice for holidaymakers during the summer months. The new Friday and Sunday schedule also places it as an easy to reach city for a weekend break.  We’re also pleased to begin serving the Western Isles with an Embraer 145 jet. We’re immensely proud of their addition to the fleet, offering time-saving improvements and additional comfort.”

Reprieve Given to Hilton's Lifeline Community Cafe

A lifeline family-friendly café in an Inverness neighbourhood has won a reprieve after being faced with closure at Christmas.  The Archie Café at Hilton Community Centre reopened its doors on Monday after Drumnadrochit-based catering company Cobbs decided to underwrite any costs while talks continue in a bid to secure its longer-term future.  The pioneering venue with its soft play area and hub for healthcare and local information opened just over five years ago in a joint venture involving Cobbs, the community centre and children’s hospital charity the Archie Foundation.  The foundation, which supports sick youngsters at the Highland Children’s Unit in Raigmore Hospital, announced it was regrettably pulling out at Christmas as the café was running at a loss and was no longer sustainable.  With dismayed customers including a group of mums calling for it to be saved, Cobbs has now agreed to keep it going until at least February, while it is in talks with another charity about taking it over.  Director Fraser Campbell is hopeful a solution will be found.  The Archie Foundation has left all kitchen equipment and soft play fittings in the café, to help support whoever takes over.

Charity Launches £1.6million Bid to Buy Mountain in the Scottish Highlands

A conservation charity is hoping to raise £1.6 million to buy a mountain in the north-west Highlands.  The Woodland Trust Scotland plans to buy the 543-metre (1,781ft) Ben Shieldaig in the Wester Ross National Scenic Area after it was put on the market by its private landowner.  The mountain is home to two areas of woodland featuring ancient Caledonian pinewood and a temperate rainforest of native birchwood.  The Trust plans to manage the land by employing a site manager and a project manager.  Charity director Carol Evans said: “This is a rare opportunity for us to bring a whole mountain under our care. It already supports a magnificent area of ancient Caledonian pinewood and a temperate rainforest of native birchwood.  Perhaps even more exciting is the potential to manage these within a mosaic of their natural neighbours.  We aim to manage the site for wildlife and people and encourage recreational access - perhaps building a small car park and creating a path to a viewpoint for visitors to enjoy.  We will consult with local people about our plans once we secure ownership. Before anything can happen though, we need to raise the money to fund the purchase.”  The Trust say natural regeneration of the land combined with planting could triple woodland cover on the mountain.  As well as the woodland, Ben Shieldaig is home to wildlife including sea eagles, golden eagles, red squirrels, pine martens and otters.

Mountaineers Demand Hydro Power Plan for Famous Scots Glen be Axed
Mountaineers have called on a local authority to reconsider its options over plans for hydro power construction schemes in a famous glen.  Highland Council is considering seven applications for Glen Etive after comments on the proposals closed on Sunday.  But Mountaineering Scotland has criticised the plans, saying each scheme would involve new road construction, bridge-building, trench-digging, cement-pouring and power cabling.  The glen near Glencoe was famously used in the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall as well as in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart in 1995.  Mountaineering Scotland chief executive Stuart Younie confirmed the group had written to councillors in a bid to reconsider the development of the glen over “relatively low power output”.  He said: “We are challenging the Highland Council on its stewardship of Glen Etive and call for the planning department to defend this much- loved landscape.  Wild land is fragile and requires understanding of what can damage its qualities for generations to come and it needs a commitment to protect those qualities.  This is despite the increasing complaints of poorly constructed and restored access tracks, intake weir pipework and bare concrete facings.  We have already written to the Highland Council planning department voicing our concerns about the legacy of intrusive tracks and their reply confirmed they do not have the resources available to monitor every development, and instead rely on local people and other organisations to alert them to any alleged breaches of planning conditions.  If developments are to be given permission in such sensitive areas, that permission should only be given where proper monitoring and safeguards are in place. If either the Highland Council or the Scottish Government want to be taken at all seriously as stewards of some of Scotland’s most iconic scenery, they must up their game.”  A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “Every planning application for hydro schemes is assessed on its merits, taking into account relevant development plan and national policy, including those relating to landscape impact.  The views expressed by consultees and third parties are also important and will form an important part of the assessment.”

Major Subsea Electricity Link Completed in Scottish Highlands

Work on a 113km subsea electricity cable that enables renewable energy from the far north to connect into the national grid has been completed.  Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks Transmission (SSEN Transmission) said the £970 million project was the most significant investment in the north of Scotland electricity transmission system since the 1950s.  The link uses High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) technology to transmit power through the subsea cable beneath the Moray Firth seabed between new converter stations at Spittal in Caithness and Blackhillock in Moray.  Constructed over a period of four years, the project also involved work at eight electricity substation sites and required two overhead electricity line reinforcement projects.  The link has already enabled turbines from Beatrice offshore wind farm and Dorenell onshore wind farm to connect to the national grid. A further 100mw of onshore generation in Caithness and Ross-shire is due to connect in coming months.  SSEN Transmission, the wholly-owned subsidiary of SSE, said the Caithness-Moray link provides up to 1,200mw of capacity to transmit power from the increasing sources of renewable energy from across the far north of Scotland. Dave Gardner, who led the project as SSEN’s director of transmission, said: “The successful energisation and commissioning of the Caithness-Moray link, on time and within budget, is a significant achievement for SSEN and everyone involved in the project.”

Blockbuster Tyrannosaurs Exhibition to Roar Into Edinburgh

Scotland’s most popular visitor attraction has secured a blockbuster international exhibition celebrating the world’s most feared dinosaurs.  The family tree of Tyrannosaurs over more than 100 million years will be explored at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Fossils, casts of specimens and models of the “T. rex” and its ancestors will go on display in Europe for the first time when the show, which was originally created by the Australian Museum in Sydney, opens in January 2020.  The exhibition will offer an insight into the diversity of Tyrannosaur skulls and what variations in structure tell experts about different hunting and feeding strategies of the dinosaurs, as well as challenge long-standing perceptions about the predators.  Visitors will be able to take part in an “augmented reality” experience in the exhibition which will allow them to play with life-sized dinosaurs and see new models of feathered dinosaurs. Other key features are expected to include giant digital screens dominated by recreations of the various “family members” and a multi-player gaming table.  The show, which will run for almost four months in Edinburgh next year, has also been staged in New Zealand, the United States and Canada, and updated extensively since its launch in 2013.  A spokesman for the National Museum said: “While the most famous of the species is the mighty T. rex, tyrannosaurs came in all shapes and sizes, and their history extends over 100 million years."  Kim McKay, chief executive and director of the Australian Museum, said the exhibition features the “building blocks of everything we know about these awe-inspiring creatures.” He added: “It will not only take visitors on a remarkable journey to our earth’s ancient past, but also provide a real sense of scientific enquiry and discovery from the latest breakthroughs and research programmes.”